Safe at Home project

When 70-year-old Carol broke her hip about a year ago, getting around her Tucson home in her wheelchair really became a challenge. The grab bars her daughter had installed were just too tall or not in the right places, greatly limiting her mobility.

“I tried to make do, but I had so much trouble getting around. I had trouble getting into the bathroom, and I couldn’t get to my sunroom to look outside and watch the birds,” Carol said.

Supported by a $75,000 Tucson Electric Power Community Impact Grant, agencies participating in the Safe at Home Coalition installed new grab bars at the appropriate height in key locations around Carol’s home to greatly improve her mobility. Volunteers also completed yard work and rebuilt a rotted overhang.

“Now, I can get around my house and my quality of life is so much better,” Carol said. “Most of all, it gives me back my independence so I don’t have to always rely on my husband. I am just so grateful.”

Carol is one of about 140 limited-income seniors whose households will be safer and healthier this year because of the Safe at Home Coalition, a unique partnership of four local nonprofit agencies led by Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona, or CHRPA. Other agencies in the coalition include the American Red Cross of Southern Arizona, Habitat for Humanity Tucson and the Pima Council on Aging.

“The Safe at Home Coalition coordinates referrals among these agencies and leverages their many resources to provide more streamlined and comprehensive support to limited-income seniors with multiple needs,” said Wendy Erica Werden, TEP’s Community Investment and Philanthropy Manager.

The coalition installs smoke detectors and makes accessibility modifications and repairs that are critical for safe, healthy and energy-efficient independent living. Projects involve plumbing and repairs to furnaces, evaporative coolers, flooring and roofs, as well as tub-to-shower conversions.

Carrie Nelson, CHRPA’s Development Director, explains how other seniors have benefited from the assistance: “Leo is wheelchair-bound and, due to a stroke, has the use of only one arm so that getting out in and out of the tub is nearly impossible. Jerry is a veteran with considerable nerve damage who has fallen multiple times getting in and out of the shower. Laverne is a grandmother who is too scared to bathe because of previous falls.”

“Funding from TEP made critical improvements to their homes possible, improving their quality of life,” she said.

TEP, the Red Cross and CHRPA also teamed up in January for a Smoke Alarm Install-a-thon in which 385 smoke alarms were installed in 276 homes in the Flowing Wells neighborhood. About 400 LED bulbs also were distributed or installed in a single weekend.

TEP’s grant to fund the Safe at Home Coalition was just one of 12 grants totaling $250,000 awarded in 2016 to local nonprofit groups working to improve education, protect the environment and provide community assistance. TEP’s Community Impact Grants are funded from corporate resources, not customers’ rates.

(Photo: Mary, a fulltime volunteer, builds a wheelchair ramp. Credit: CHRPA)